Tuesday 18 April 2023
  • New British Council poll reveals that more than half (52%) of UK working adults change the way they speak at work, with respondents from North East England (49%) most likely to change their      accent for the workplace
  • The use of corporate jargon is commonplace, with only 14% saying they never hear it at work, and 32% claiming that senior colleagues are most likely to use it
  • “There is no ‘I’ in team”, “Give 110 percent” and “touch base” were voted the most cringe-worthy corporate expressions
  • Over half (51%) of those surveyed regard English as the most important language for international business in the future, with Mandarin (22%) and Spanish (18%) also ranking highly
  • Almost one-third (31%) already use a second language, in addition to English, at work

18 April 2023 - A new Censuswide poll commissioned by the British Council has surveyed 2,500 working adults across the UK about their use of English at work. The survey was commissioned to coincide with the launch of the British Council’s landmark report, The Future of English: Global Perspectives (18 April), part of a major new research programme into English as a global language.

More than half (52%) of respondents said they change the way they speak English at work, compared to how they speak English at home or outside of work. A desire to sound professional (cited by 40% of respondents) was ranked as the primary reason, with others saying they change the way they speak at work because of their accent (23%) or because they feel pressure to speak in a certain way to fit in (17%). Respondents from the North East (49%) of England, from Northern Ireland (49%), the North West (45%) of England and Scotland (44%) were the groups most likely to report changing their accent at work.

The survey also reveals that the use of corporate jargon is widespread across the UK, with only 14% saying that they never hear it at work. Views on corporate jargon were mixed: whilst more than half of those surveyed (57%) felt that it enables them to communicate more effectively with colleagues, nearly half of the respondents (46%) felt that too much corporate jargon could make people feel excluded, and 18% of respondents complained that it can make co-workers sound like they are trying too hard. The use of corporate jargon was most associated with senior colleagues (32%).

Respondents were also asked to identify the corporate expressions most likely to make them cringe. “There is no ‘I’ in team” was rated as the most cringeworthy phrase (by 28% of respondents); others included “Give 110 percent” (22%), “touch base” (18%) and “think outside the box” (17%).

More than half (51%) selected English as the most important language for international business in the future, with Mandarin Chinese (22%), Spanish (18%) and French (17%) also ranking highly. Almost one third (31%) said that they use a second language, in addition to English, in workplace communication. The languages respondents were most likely to use alongside English were French (9%) and Spanish (8%). The British Council’s new publication, The Future of English: Global Perspectives, supports these findings, noting that whilst English is set to retain a prominent position as the leading language for global business, it is projected to do so as part of an increasingly multilingual global landscape.

Commenting on the survey findings, Mina Patel, lead author of The Future of English: Global Perspectives, said: “This survey offers a fascinating glimpse into how people adapt the way they use English at work to seem more professional or to communicate more effectively with colleagues.

“Although too much corporate jargon can be off-putting and certain expressions may make us cringe, it’s worth noting that perceptions of jargon aren’t always negative. Our global research into The Future of English also suggests that established and formalised codes of language and communication can streamline professional interactions between experts in the same sector.

“It is also interesting to see that nearly a third of respondents use an additional language at work, reflecting our global research indicating that English will retain its position as the world’s most spoken language, but in an increasingly multilingual environment.”

The British Council supports 100 million English learners worldwide with online resources and connects with more than four million teachers and educators online each year – the world’s largest global network of teachers. The organisation also works directly with education leaders, teacher educators and teachers of English to raise standards of English in education systems. Every year, millions of English learners take assessments with the British Council which have life-changing potential, enabling them to access life, study or work opportunities overseas or in their own countries.

Notes to Editor

For more information, the full survey findings and interviews please contact Maz Seyf, Media Manager: Maz.Seyf@britishcouncil.org


The survey was conducted by Censuswide with 2,505 employed respondents (full and part time, 18+) between 03.04.23 - 11.04.23. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles and are members of The British Polling Council.

About The Future of English

The British Council’s research programme on The Future of English will shine a light on the trends driving the use of English as a global language and provide data to inform policy makers, educators, researchers and others interested in this important topic. For more information on the programme, visit https://www.britishcouncil.org/future-of-english

The publication The Future of English: Global Perspectives is authored by Mina Patel, Mike Solly and Steve Copeland and edited by Professor Barry O’Sullivan (all of the British Council) and Professor Yan Jin (School of Foreign Languages, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and member of the British Council’s Assessments Advisory Board).

The Future of English: Global Perspectives is available to download from www.britishcouncil.org from 18 April 2023.

About the British Council

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We support peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. We work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2021-22 we reached 650 million people.